E-Inquiries - Bring Public Inquiries to the Net

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

A search in Wikinews for "Inquiry" will return many examples of Public Inquiries conducted by governmental organizations into issues that are often deeply controversial.

The processes and terms of reference of such 'Public' Inquiries are normally determined by the commissioning governmental body. However the Internet has now made possible the emergence of a new type of Public Inquiry, called an "E-Inquiry" that appears to be not only independent of government but also, like a Wiki, enables anyone who wishes to partake in the Inquiry to do so by contributing evidence and by posing questions that contribute to the process of determining the Terms of reference of the E-Inquiry.

The absence of a US government sponsored independent public inquiry into the Katrina hurricane disaster could well be the spur that led to the development of a new non-profit web site that incorporates a framework for conducting a Public E-Inquiry. That site http://www.ForumKatrina.org carries the banner line "Katrina Support, Recovery, Planning & E-Inquiry".

The web site owners have given permission to quote the following extract from its statement on the web site about the objective of its E-Inquiry:

"Everyone who may think of getting involved in the E-Inquiry is asked to remember, at every stage in the process, that the end purpose of the E-Inquiry is to provide recommendations, for the future. The objective of those recommendations is to help everyone to avoid death, disease and destruction in consequence of forthcoming natural and man-made disasters. If those recommendations are to be taken seriously, and this, the first E-Inquiry, is to acquire any public credibility, then the process must be democratic, patently fair and intellectually rigorous."

It will be interesting to see whether an E-Inquiry is capable of meeting these ideals and whether they become a common feature of internet activity.